Singer-Songwriter Authenticity, the Unconscious and Emotions (feat. Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’)

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Abstract

This study addresses how singer-songwriters engage with emotion, unconscious processes, and effect, and therefore embodiment, feelings, and experiences. It also considers reception and various forms of mediation. This involves a discussion of authenticity of various types, of inscribing and ascribing authentication. It questions the use of the term singer-songwriter, what it means to use this term to refer to popular music composition, and whether it relates to a set of practices or a genre. Adele’s song ‘Someone Like You’ is used as a case study that illustrates these issues. Additionally, this chapter will also draw upon interviews with successful musicians in order to answer these questions. While such an approach raises the issue of authorial intent as valuable to the study of texts, popular music, as a highly performative text, requires a differing approach. Even if one cannot be certain of the veracity of the opinions expressed by musicians in interviews, these reported opinions, as well as the other ways musicians present themselves to audiences, form an important element of their performativity, and greatly affect its reception. Whether or not addressing authorial intent is thought of as problematic or useful, it is in this situation certainly relevant, as it forms part of the artist’s field of activity, the artist acting as or constructing a frame around the music. Defining the singer-songwriter The term singer-songwriter implies three key activities, singing, writing songs, and performing one’s own material. Singer-songwriters are usually thought of as singing songs they have composed themselves, so some would argue that one would think of Paul Simon’s solo work, rather than his work with Art Garfunkel, and exclude a songwriting team such as Burt Bacharach and Hal David; some identifiable singer-songwriters, however, are also associated with more overt collaborative work. One thinks of singer-songwriters as writing both the music and the lyrics, such as Bob Dylan rather than Elton John, as the latter seldom writes lyrics. They are usually solo artists, rather than performing in a band or writing collaboratively, so one might suggest John Lennon in his solo career, but not with The Beatles. They tend to use simple arrangements, with a focus on the voice, thus perhaps Suzanne Vega, but not Frank Zappa.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter
EditorsKatherine Williams, Justin A. Williams
PublisherCambridge University Press
Chapter26
Pages291-304
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781316569207
ISBN (Print)9781107063648, 9781107680913
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016

Publication series

NameCambridge Companions to Music
PublisherCambridge University Press

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Cite this

Till, R. (2016). Singer-Songwriter Authenticity, the Unconscious and Emotions (feat. Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’). In K. Williams, & J. A. Williams (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter (pp. 291-304). (Cambridge Companions to Music). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781316569207.027